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currently, there are nearly 700 people waiting for execution. that's our report. i'm john seigenthaler who is in charge now? let's play "hardbasketball." good evening. i'm chuck todd in washington. in tonight for chris matthews. leading off, now what? there are so many unanswered questions now that nato is preparing to take over the military campaign against mullah omar el gadhafi. how big a role will the u.s. play now? are we still in charge and with war fatigue setting in and criticism coming from both sides of the aisle, president obama
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will explain what's at stake in libya in an address to the nation on monday evening. plus, fear of spreading terrorism there where anti-government demonstrations and in some cases violence in many arab countries today. in yemen, thousands turned out calling for the ouster of the u.s.-backed president there. if that president is overthrown, who stops al qaeda in the arabian peninsula from taking over? and there are increasing concerns of spreading radiation from that crippled nuclear power plant in japan with even more people now being encouraged, not forced, to get out of the area. how great is the danger? plus, with hispanics making up one out of every six americans and one out of every four children, how long can republicans be seen as hostile to their interests? the huge implications of the census report on the 2012 presidential election. finally, what's a serious candidate to do? how does anyone who actually believes they have a chance of winning the republican
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nomination get heard when people like michele bachmann, sarah palin and, yes, even our friend up there in new york, donald trump, are taking up all the oxygen, but we'll start with what's next on the libyan front. nbc chief foreign correspondent richard engel is in benghazi. after a harrowing couple of days covering the war and richard, what happened today on the ground that you've seen? >> reporter: today we went out of benghazi and instead of going to the rebel front line 100 miles south of here, we went to the front line and went around it and were able to get inside the city of ajdabiya. ajdabiya is partially held by gadhafi forces and partially held by the rebels themselves. there is street-to-street fighting in the city, and in a way this has progressed because the rebels would not have been able to get this far if gadhafi's forces hadn't been
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significantly weakened by the western air strikes. there's new video today of a british air strike on gadhafi's tanks just outside ofaged yeah, so the western and now nato or i guess u.s. offensive against gadhafi's army is making an impact on the ground, but it is not very quick moving. the rebels are in the city, they are fighting, but street-to-street fighting takes a long time. chuck. >> what sun clear who makes up the opposition, who is the leader of the opposition. there are going to be some representatives in london, i'm told, over the weekend for this conference with nato, but there was also supposed to be some representatives of the opposition at an african union meeting where gadhafi was supposed to send representatives. what can you tell me about that? >> reporter: leaders we've spoken to, both on the political side and on the military side. the military side aren't involved in any of these discussions. there is a political leadership, and they are very weary of entering into any kind of
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dialogue or negotiations with gadhafi. they simply don't trust gadhafi and they think anything he's offering could be a trick, something that could be used against him. gadhafi was even offering to send 2,000 people here to benghazi as a peace offering carrying literally olive branches and the people of ngziaiweonvwa th ithty nar t cy becauswho knows what they might do, so the -- there is an opposition. they would much rather talk to nato and much rather talk directly to france, europe, the united states and not to gadhafi directly because they don't trust his motives. >> all right. i want to ask you about two other countries where things heated up today. one, yemen. we've been tracking for a while, but i want to talk to you about syria, because a few days ago when we hear about the protests in syria, hi some people say, you know what? this is a -- this is a regime that knows how to crack down in brutal ways. this won't be a serious uprising, and yet today reports
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were this was a pretty serious uprising. >> reporter: people used to say the same thing about egypt. oh, it could never happen because the egyptian security forces are so good. there are a lot of parallels between egypt and syria, and i've always thought that syria was conspicuously kwai net all of this. syria has a regime that is very similar to egypt's, perhaps more tightly controlling. one family dynasty that the son isn't nearly as powerful or charismatic or as brutal as the father. people don't feel they have political rights and political freedoms. they have an educated population. they have an urbanized population, and these are all the symptoms that have proven to be so explosive and successful in arab revolutions. educated people, no expression, urbanized population, family dynasty going back decades, and syria has all of those characteristics, and there are
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indications that it will continue to spread in syria. >> explain the game -- i had somebody say to me, if syria as important as egypt was in creating this potential for a domino effect, i had somebody argue to me that syria would actually be a bigger deal than egypt. explain what you think that person meant to me by that. >> different dynamics. egypt is an enormous arab country. in many ways it is the symbol, the capital of the arab world. the arab league is there. everyone around the region watches egyptian movies. everyone speaks or is familiar with the egyptian dialect of arabic, so what happens in egypt so goes the rest of the region. syria is strategic for many reasons. it is the channel for weapons into lebanon for hezbollah. it is a bridge to iran. it has traditionally been a stalwart enemy of israel so the
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dynamic, i guess you could call it the arab-israeli dynamic, a much more explosive one, is much more impacted by the events in syria, and it wouldn't -- i would also watch the connections between syria and hezbollah and syria and hamas, and there are many senior hamas leaders who live in syria. >> live in damascus, yeah. >> reporter: it wouldn't be surprising to see an uprising or more activity from hamas, more activity in gaza or explosions in israel itself to try and deflect some of the pressure off of the syrian regime, so it's strategic because of those kind of relations. egypt is strategic because it is just the homeland or the home address of the arab world. >> all right. rich engel, our chief foreign correspondent in benghazi, like to clone you. like to have you in damascus helping us out. >> reporter: i'd like to be there. can't believe the region. never seen it like this.
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>> unbelievable. you're doing great work. thank you. white house press secretary jay carney announced today that president obama will address the country on the status of libya, but we'll talk about the political implications and we'll turn to our political analyst and all around guru chris cillizza. chris? >> yes. >> the political problem that is facing this white house regarding libya is something that seemed to catch them a little off guard. >> it did, which is kind of strange. they know, they know that congress is not particularly friendly to them and know the republicans control congress and the public dealings in foreign issues is different. there was bipartisan resistance, jim webb, a democrat frand dick lugar, a republican from indiana, and there's anger, not
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the word that john boehner would coos, but the letter he sent, he was clearly miffed, not consulted enough, wants more information, things that the president doesn't want to hear. >> when they saw john kerry and john mccain on the same side of this. >> yes. >> both calling for this no-fly zone, that they said to themselves okay we've got congress covered. >> right. >> we've got to deal with this trip, figure out how to get more arab nations, a lot of fires going on that they were trying to deal with and they thought geez, mccain and kerry, there's our cover, congress, box check. >> you stole my box check metaphor, that's it. a lot goes into this at any time. forget when you're about to leave for latin america on a trip that's long been scheduled, so, yeah, i'm sure they did how you define due diligence and did some due diligence with mccain and kerry and said what do you think of this? the tough thing is congress is a tough beast to predict. when they were on the trip things got a little away from
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them and very difficult for the president to control message when he's in a foreign country. it's just very -- the perception is hard, hard for him to give a big speech about another country when he's in latin america. i think to your speech about early next week, i've heard the same thing. >> right. >> monday or tuesday, the goal being wrap this -- wrap this up, you know. it's the old good morning, good afternoon, good night. >> right, the tree strikes rule, why we got in, what we did and why we're out. >> and it's already worked. >> the question is will they say it's already worked. >> today the president briefed the relevant members of congress, leadership, heads of the key committees and we'll obviously find out in the next 48 hours how well that briefing went but the first time president has updated members. congress has been on recess. gates and clinton go to the hill and testify next week. we assume we'll have the presidential remarks but i want to throw in one other thing. if they underestimated war fatigue? >> yes. >> the abc/"washington post" poll was a stinging number about
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afghanistan. >> lowest numbers in our poll for afghanistan last week. again, we were talking about they willier. i think a lot of what you see here is in the post-vietnam era there is almost no patience for foreign involvement by the united states unless it's like gulf war one. it begins, you know, in late january and ends in early february. we're done and we're out. the obama administration is hoping to -- >> to do the same thing. >> they can do that with libya. >> not even been a week. >> you know this better than i do, when you're in a foreign country and entangled in a coalition of people, it's not so easy to say we're out, we walked away. ask george w. bush about mission accomplished. we know how that turned out. >> chris cillizza, post politics, thanks very much. >> right. coming up, what do we know about moammar gadhafi? will he fight or flee? and who are the rebels that the no-fly zone is essentially helping out? big questions. we'll get answers from the the united states who broke with
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. welcome back to "hardball." what do we really know about the rebels taking on colonel gadhafi? in the past the rebels we've supported one day have become our enemies the next. think afghanistan. one person who knows all about our allies recently resigned as the libyan ambassador to the united states and is now supporting the opposition. mr. ambassador, welcome. >> thank you. >> so let me ask you. who is the opposition? tell us who they are, and should the united states, who has stopped short of recognizing them, recognize them as the official leadership of libya? >> well, the opposition, they are the libyans who raised against the regime, doctors, professors. they are students. they are lawyers. they are normal people in libya who have been suffering for the
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last 42 years, and then they are not al qaeda. what the regime tried to describe them. >> right. >> if they are al qaeda, then the regime is responsible for them that they are in the country, but libyan people, they raise against the regime peacefully and, unfortunately, they have been killed by -- by the service and the chair of the council, mr. al jalil. he was the former justice minister. he's very known in libya. he's a very capable man. he's very decent man, and dr. mohammed jabril is a professor and worked in the gulf countries and brought by moammar gadhafi to reform libya. >> yeah. let me ask about gadhafi. you said in a previous interview did you not believe he would flee, that he would day on libyan soil, that he didn't want to face the threat of the court.
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is there no safe haven in the world that he could flee to in your mind? >> well, i think it's not a matter of the safe haven. i think the problem of gadhafi's mentality, gadhafi believes until now that the people likes him. >> he really thought the people supported him. >> that's what he believed. >> that's what he believed. >> he lives in a different world, i believe. >> right. >> and he lost touch with reality. libyan people, they offer him a safe exit, but until now we don't see anything positive for him. i have here, like many others, that there is maybe a chance for him to negotiate and president sarkozy of france, mentioned something that britain and france, they are working for peaceful solution. that's what we want. libyan people, they want to get rid of him, because if he's there there's nobody secure. the problem is not the army. the problem is gadhafi. >> right. >> that if you want to save the libyan civilians. >> you believe if you cut off
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the head, if gadhafi goes, all of his troops, the ones that are libyan, join the -- join the opposition. >> of course. >> and the ones that aren't, they disappear. >> of course. as far as gadhafi, the damagers are there. if gadhafi is removed, then we will be able to get together again and we will be able -- >> this is not about regime, one person. >> one person, and the close alliance to him who use them, to kill the libyan people inside libya and outside libya and not only libyan people are victims. others are victims, too, see the tourist action in germany and britain and many different places. >> i want to play you something secretary clinton said last night about nato and i wanted to get your response to it. here's what she said. >> in the days ahead as nato assumes command and control responsibilities, the welfare of those civilians will be of paramount concern. this operation has already saved many lives, but the danger is far from over.
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as long as the gadhafi regime threatens its people and defies the united nations, we must remain vigilant and focused. >> this operation specifically does not target gadhafi, should it? >> well, i think if this operation is targeting gadhafi's forces, then the libyan people know how to deal with gadhafi. the main threat -- >> you believe the libyan people can handle gadhafi. >> of course. >> as long as they have the protective military cover. >> that's right, because the forces is not equal. gadhafi has professional soldiers and the latest technology. >> right. >> the people who are forced to fight him, they have traditional weapon, and even the range of weapon is completely different. they need the help of the international community, and this is a historical chance to get rid of this man. this man has no place on the earth. as far as we are concerned, and then the libyan people, they will not go back. they will not negotiate. there is no negotiation, only for safe exit for him if he
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wants to go. but otherwise, if the world leaves gadhafi in power or leaves him behind, believe me the western countries they will suffer more than the libyans. >> all right. >> because he's a man of revenge. he will never forget. >> ambassador, thanks for coming in, and our best to you and your family and the brave people. >> thank you very much. i appreciate it. up next, troubling news out of japan where that damaged reactor core may have been breached. it could mean much larger amounts of radiation are already leaking out. we'll get the latest on that crisis when we return. you're watching "hardball" only on msnbc. it hit helps the lhe of companipanies like the she smallestt ofof th ththat lets yos your employeloy, pa and custcustomersvate and sharee so you can can unleash tsh the of your mor your peopleople. ♪
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welcome back to "hardball." let's go to another continent. the radiation leak from japan's nuclear reactor could signal the nuclear core has been breached. today's news is certainly another setback in efforts to get the nuclear plant under control. also today, the japanese government said that people
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living up to 19 miles from the reactor site should consider a voluntary evacuation. earlier, they had suggested people in that zone just stay indoors, so how bad is it? james acton is the associate with the nuclear program at the carnegie endowment for international peace and joins us now. james, let's start with the evacuation notice. it's still voluntary. is the japanese government making a mistake here by making it voluntary? why say you probably should go but not make it mandatory? >> chuck, i think what is important to understand about the position that the japanese government is it's already 500,000 displaced people in japan. they have been hit by a massive earthquake. >> right. >> they have been hit by a massive tsunami, and there are real costs to evacuating more people, costs to those people. if you're an evacuee from that region, you're going to be going to a sports hall win adequate sanitation and inadequate food and inadequate water. >> all right. this new radiation, at this point we already know about the
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workers that at this point are incredibly ill. does this mean all work stops again? if this radiation leak has happened, nothing can be done while they are trying to get this reactor back under control. >> well, based on the latest information that i have, the radiation levels on the site as a whole are not increasing right now, which is actually very good news. there is locally very high levels of radiation in the basement of the turbine hall of reactor three. >> so the one they think it's leaking out of. >> yes. which is the place where the workers stumbled into this highly radioactive water. >> right. >> and i've heard it reported and not confirmed yet, i don't know if this is right, there's similarly radioactive water in the basement of the turbine halls of units one and two. >> if you can't do any work in the three -- if this is -- if the information we're getting and work basically gets hampered or halted completed, what does that mean for the likelihood that we could end up with a full
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meltdown? >> it's not entirely clear to me exactly whether the reason they were laying power lines into the basement of the turbine halls was for crucial cooling systems. you know, just details of the plant schematics that you need to answer that question are not available at the moment, but i think it's fair to say they wouldn't have been laying the cables if they didn't consider it highly important to do so. >> and at what point do we think they can get this under control if they can get back to work? are we weeks away? months away. >> potentially. the answer, is you know, this was a news story dying over the last few days, but the unanimous consent of the expert community was we weren't out of the woods yet. this is still a volatile situation, still a dangerous situation. it's still a situation that could change on a day-by-day basis. there is no obvious time frame for ending this.
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this is a crisis that could drag on for weeks longer. i mean, it could be over days and could drag on for weeks or could even go on for a month or two. >> james acton for the carnegie endowment for peace, thanks very much. we look forward to, unfortunately, seeing you on our programs all over the place. you've been very helpful. thanks very much. that's "hardball" for this week. thanks for being with us. up next, "your business."
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